On March 29, 2022, USCIS announced additional details about their plans to reduce backlogs, expedite processing and provide relief. Its efforts are aimed at lifting the strain it has been facing from the COVID-19 pandemic and the previous administration’s restrictionist policies. In addition to addressing the issues it has inherited, new immigration issues are constantly shifting to the tide of global events.
The evacuation of Afghanistan in August 2021 and the Russian invasion of Ukraine at the end of February resulted in large-scale evacuations that will inevitably lead to additional immigration and humanitarian issues in the foreseeable future. After the Trump administration exacerbated USCIS’s already long wait times and high caseloads, the Biden administration is left to attempt a solution with three target goals:
- Reducing Processing Backlogs
- Expanding Premium Processing
- Improving Access to Employment Authorization Documents
USCIS Announces New Cycle Time Goals to Reduce Backlogs
Applicants can view their application’s processing time at the agency’s website, which is updated every month according to the most recent information. Processing times vary by form and location, and are measured by the time it takes USCIS to decide the case after receiving the application form.
For example, the median processing time for Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, is 11.5 months for FY 2022. As part of the Biden administration’s efforts to rebuild the immigration system however, the agency is hoping to reach its new cycle time goal of 6 months by the end of FY 2023.
This deadline applies for 18 other forms listed under USCIS’s 6 month cycle time goal as well, such as Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or to Adjust Status, and Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative.
Three additional cycle time goal categories target more ambitious time spans but with fewer documents. Under the 3-month cycle time goal are four forms, including Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, which grants work permits to foreign nationals and allows them to find employment in the U.S.
While the 2-month cycle time goal is being applied for solely Form I-129 Non-Premium, the 2-week cycle time goal will be applied for Forms I-129 Premium and I-140 Premium. All cycle time goals are meant to be achieved by the end of next year, a process the agency hopes will allow them to adjudicate applications with greater speed.
Realigning Premium Processing Regulations
Expedited services are available to applicants looking for temporary work or employment-based green cards through premium processing. The DHS is implementing a new rule to systemize the fees and timeframes associated with premium services, which will closely align with the Emergency Stopgap USCIS Stabilization Act.
Premium processing services are available for Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, and to certain petitioners filing Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers. Other categories of application forms not yet eligible for premium processing but are in the works include Forms I-539, I-765 and certain classifications under I-140.
Starting with Form I-140, USCIS plans to begin making premium processing available to filers requesting EB-1 or EB-2. EB-1 is an employment-based visa of the first preference for foreign nationals who are a multinational executive or manager. EB-2 is an employment-based visa of the second preference for noncitizens who possess an exceptional ability or advanced degrees with the goal of obtaining a national interest waiver.
Temporary Final Rule Looks Out For Applicants Pending Approval
USCIS continues to work on a temporary rule meant to provide relief to those applying and others who wish to apply for their employment authorization documents (EAD).
The U.S. Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs received the rule titled “Temporary Increase of the Automatic Extension Period of Employment Authorization and Documentation for Certain Renewal Applicants” on March 24, 2022 and it is currently under regulatory review.
The agency hopes to get this final rule approved to build upon the progress it has made thus far in streamlining EAD-related applications. For example, applicants who fell under the categories healthcare and childcare worker were able to get their EAD renewals expedited. Furthermore, the extension of the validity time-frame for certain documents allowed applicants to maintain their work status while waiting for their pending application.
At the Law Offices of Wiliani-Malek, Inc., an entirely immigration-focused law firm, our attorney possesses extensive experiences navigating many of the afore-mentioned forms. Call us now to book a consultation at 714-432-1333!